When you’re looking for your perfect online teaching job you’ll come across a lot of images like this:
All I could think when I saw those images was “wow, they’re committed”. Most of my time teaching online I’ve been doing so whilst travelling. Obviously, I can’t fit an entire office or spare room in my suitcase or backpack, nor do I want to take up precious space with tons of props.
But, at the same time, this is a job, and props can be helpful for it. Many online platforms highly recommend using them and I have found them to be helpful for engaging with students, explaining things words can’t, and as a reward system.
Whether you’re just starting out and don’t want to invest in a lot yet, or plan on travelling the world and want to save your back, let me tell you that it is entirely possible to do minimalist teaching.
I mean that only in terms of props as I’m sure your teaching abilities are in no way minimal 😉
From my experience, using little to no props has had no negative effect on my booking rates, engagement of students, or reviews. While sometimes having more is nice, it is by no means necessary.
When I’m settled in one place for a little while, my set up will look something like this:
And guess what?
When I want to travel, everything fits into one ziplock bag. Except for Dino, he sometimes needs to stay home (sorry Dino!)
Minimalist Teaching: A How-To
As you can see, I don’t use much and things are much less colourful in my pictures than the first one. BUT, a white background is plain (obviously), non-distracting, and simple enough to find anywhere. Even if you don’t have a white background, something simple will always do.
When it comes to props, use only the essentials. Think about what is hard to mimic by yourself whilst on a tiny screen. Other important factors when considering props is whether or not it is multipurpose and how much space it takes up.
My Essentials include:
As long as you can show some ABCs, numbers, and high-frequency words, you’re all set!
When it comes to minimalist teaching, finger puppets > hand puppets. You can use more at once and have more options. Plus, just putting them closer to the camera makes them bigger!
If you feel you need to, a mini-whiteboard can be handy. Drawing things and having multiple colours can be helpful. However, so many online teaching platforms now have the option of drawing on the screen so I tend to ditch the whiteboard and draw right there with the student.